Saturday, April 18, 2015

Assessing the Strategic Impact of the Doolittle Raid

73 years ago today, sixteen B-25 medium bombers took off from USS Hornet (CV-8) to conduct the first American attack on Japan during World War II. Two weeks after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt asked the Chiefs of Staff to come up with a plan for attacking Tokyo directly in order to demonstrate to the American public that the U.S. was capable of carrying the war to Japan. Captain Francis Low, Assistant Chief of Staff for anti-submarine warfare, is credited with conceiving the idea for the raid. Lieutenant General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, the head of the U.S. Army Air Forces, selected Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle to lead the raid. Doolittle was one of the most experienced military pilots in the country and had already won two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Model of USS Hornet (click to enlarge)
Builder unknown
Naval War College Museum Collection
Doolittle’s crews received three weeks of specialized training for the mission at Eglin Field and Wagner Field in Florida. Upon completion, they flew to California and met up with Hornet at Naval Air Station (NAS) Alameda. Task Force 18 departed Alameda on April 2 and rendezvoused with Task Force 16, centered on USS Enterprise (CV-6), before proceeding to the western Pacific. The raid launched ahead of schedule on the morning of April 18 after a Japanese patrol boat spotted the American task force. Concerned that they would lose the element of surprise, Doolittle’s men took off and flew the 650 nautical miles to Japan. Their targets included factories, industrial centers, shore facilities, and naval shipyards. After dropping their bombs, each aircraft made its way to friendly territory as best it could. Some made it to China, others crashed in the ocean, and one landed in the Soviet Union.

B-25s on board USS Hornet. Immediately to the left is USS Gwin (DD-433)
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Historians who have analyzed the raid agree that while it caused little material damage to Japan, it was more important as a boost to American morale. In fact, many articles about the raid quote an official report from the Naval War College that asserted there was “no serious strategical reason” for the raid. What was this report and why was it written?

Anyone familiar with today’s U.S. military knows how much emphasis is placed on conducting and studying after action reviews (AARs). Their purpose is to capture lessons learned in combat so that future commanders can benefit from hard-won experience. In 1946, Chief of Naval Operations FADM Chester W. Nimitz ordered the Naval War College to conduct a series of studies on major World War II naval battles that were essentially in-depth AARs.

ADM Raymond A. Spruance, President of the Naval War College, assigned Commodore Richard W. Bates to conduct these studies. Bates had graduated from the Naval War College senior class in 1941 and returned to teach strategy from 1941-1943. From 1943-1945, he served in a number of combat assignments in the Pacific and was present at the battles of Surigao Strait, Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, and Okinawa. Bates now headed up the project that became known as the World War II Battle Evaluation Group. This group produced studies on the Coral Sea, Midway, Savo Island, as well as a multi-volume report on Leyte Gulf.

RADM Richard W. Bates, USN (Ret.)
Oil on canvas
Anthony Sarro, 1971
Naval War College Museum Collection
Although the Doolittle Raid was not the subject of its own study, Bates discussed it in the introduction to the report on the Battle of the Coral Sea. He noted that the prevailing view of the raid was that it succeeded in bolstering civilian morale even if the material damage caused was slight. He quoted the Office of Naval Intelligence report from 1943 which contained this observation: “Air bombing of Tokyo and the other Japanese centers of war industry on April 18th, while cheering, was only a nuisance raid.” Bates also cited Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King’s assessment that the raid’s most important effect was to lift Allied spirits after the surrender of American and Filipino forces on the Bataan Peninsula.

Recent authors of popular histories about World War II have used Bates’ observation that the raid had “no serious strategical reason” to suggest that the Naval War College found the raid to be of little consequence.[1] However, this interpretation is not supported by the rest of the report. Bates argued that even though the raid was launched without a defined strategic purpose, it actually did have tangible and serious effects on the future course of the war. The raid hit Tokyo while Japanese war planners were meeting to discuss future operations. Up until this point, their armed forces had enjoyed one success after another. The appearance of American bombers over the home islands created enormous pressure to ensure that such an attack was not repeated. As a result, the high command identified a list of new objectives that included the Solomon Islands, Port Moresby, the Aleutians, and Midway Island. They also moved up the timetable for the operation against Midway. This decision ensured that two carriers damaged at Coral Sea, Zuikaku and Shokaku, could not participate, thus depriving the Japanese of about 140 additional aircraft in the crucial battle of the Pacific war. Bates pointed out that the raid had negative strategic consequences for the U.S. as well. The two carriers that participated in the raid, Hornet and Enterprise, returned to Pearl Harbor and were on their way to reinforce USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the first week of May. They failed to rendezvous in time to take part in the Battle of the Coral Sea, leaving historians to wonder how the American fleet would have fared had it enjoyed a 2:1 advantage in carriers at that action rather than equaling the Japanese force.

The Naval War College is well known for the role it played in formulating U.S. plans for the war against Japan. But the College’s impact on planning did not end once the war started. The World War II Battle Evaluation Group is a good example of how the College analyzed the results of naval operations to determine whether or not strategies conceived in peace time proved sound. In the case of the Doolittle Raid, Bates and his team found that the lack of a specific strategic goal did not stop the attack from having an adverse effect on Japanese decision making, thus aiding the American war effort.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

[1] See, for example, Mike Wright, What They Didn’t Teach You About World War II (Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1998), 277; James Arnold and Robert Hargis, US Commanders of World War II (1) (Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2002), 49.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Artifact Spotlight: USS Hartford

USS Hartford
Built by Mr. Keith Ward Reynolds
Gift of Mrs. Jayne Mayntz

We’ve been very fortunate to add several beautiful wooden ship models to our collection in recent months. Among them is this 3 ½ foot-long model of USS Hartford, a ship most famous for its role as the flagship of the Union fleet at the Battle of Mobile Bay, but which also has a connection to Newport and the Naval Training Station.

click to enlarge
Hartford was launched on November 22, 1858 at the Boston Navy Yard. She was built as a sloop-of-war, meaning that she mounted all guns on a single deck and carried square-rigged sails. Her armament consisted of two 12-pounders, two 20-pounder Parrott rifles, and twenty 9-inch smoothbore Dahlgrens. Following her commissioning on May 27, 1859, Hartford became the flagship for the East India Squadron and sailed to the Far East on a diplomatic mission.

click to enlarge

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Hartford returned home to Philadelphia where she was readied for wartime service. One week after Confederate forces fired on Ft. Sumter, President Lincoln directed the U.S. Navy to establish a blockade of all states that seceded from the Union. The plan was for the Navy to starve the South of the resources necessary to fight the war while the Army brought about a decisive battle on land. To that end, the Navy divided up the Confederate coastline and assigned responsibility for each section to an independent squadron. In January 1862, Hartford became the flagship for the West Gulf Blockading Squadron under the command of Flag Officer David G. Farragut. His area of responsibility began at the mouth of the Mississippi River and ran west to the Rio Grande.

Before Mobile Bay, Hartford participated in two other decisive actions of the war. From April 18 to May 1, 1862, the West Gulf Blockading Squadron fought its way past two forts on the Mississippi as well as a collection of ironclads, fire rafts, and river steamers to reach the city of New Orleans. With the closure of that city’s port facilities, the Confederacy lost the use of the Mississippi River as a conduit for overseas trade. That left Vicksburg as the last significant river port remaining in southern hands. The high bluffs overlooking the river gave the Confederate gunners there a distinct advantage. They could fire plunging shot down on enemy ships as they passed, while Union naval crews could not elevate their guns high enough to fire back. Farragut’s ships worked to isolate Vicksburg and helped ferry General Ulysses S. Grant’s army over the Mississippi in order to attack the defensive works from the rear. Vicksburg finally fell on July 4, 1863.

Map of the Battle of Mobile Bay (click to enlarge)
Courtesy of  Civil War Preservation Trust
On August 5, 1864, Farragut once again took Hartford into battle, this time at Mobile Bay. Just as at New Orleans, he faced a combination of coastal fortifications supported by a small flotilla of enemy ships. Chief among them was the ironclad CSS Tennessee. The rebel commander, Franklin Buchanan, had been the first Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy when it opened in 1845. He commanded CSS Virginia until just before its historic battle with USS Monitor and was subsequently promoted to full admiral, the only officer in the Confederate navy to achieve that rank. Farragut was a rear admiral at the time of the battle.

The attack got underway early in the morning with the Union vessels advancing in two columns. Farragut’s ironclad monitors sailed closer to Fort Morgan, the larger of the two shore defenses, in order to screen the wooden warships in the second column. As the lead ironclad, Tecumseh, entered the bay, Tennessee appeared out of the morning mist. Tecumseh’s captain turned to intercept the Confederate ironclad, but the new course took his ship directly into a minefield. Tecumseh struck a torpedo (as floating mines were called then) and sank by the bow in less than thirty seconds. Brooklyn, the ship directly ahead of Hartford, slowed to a halt while her captain signaled to Farragut asking for instructions. It was at this moment that Farragut supposedly gave his famous order, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” His actual words have been lost to history, though most eyewitnesses stated that he said something to that effect. More importantly, the rest of his ships passed by the forts and negotiated the minefield without suffering any critical damage.
With Hartford now in the lead, Tennessee turned to attack the head of the Federal line. Her slow speed greatly hindered Buchanan’s attempts to ram the Union ships, and he decided to withdraw after realizing that he could not outmaneuver his opponents. Buchanan pulled away to inspect his ship for damage and feed his crew. Having satisfied himself that Tennessee was still capable of fighting, he once again turned to engage. Hartford and Tennessee steamed for each other on opposite courses and passed port-to-port at point blank range. Having withstood Hartford’s broadsides, Tennessee now found herself surrounded by the rest of the Union fleet. A hail of incoming shot destroyed her funnel, severed her steering chains, and severely wounded Buchanan, forcing him to turn over command of Tennessee to his flag captain. Unable to steer or raise steam, Tennesse bowed to the inevitable and surrendered. When the garrison of Ft. Morgan finally capitulated on August 23, Mobile Bay was firmly in Union hands and remained so for the rest of the war.

An August Morning with Farragut; the Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864
William Heysham Overend English
Oil on canvas
Wadsworth Athaneum

Hartford survived the war and became the flagship for the newly-formed Asiatic Squadron in July 1865. After transferring to the North Atlantic Squadron in 1875, two of her enlisted crew members earned the Medal of Honor the following year for rescuing drowning shipmates. Hartford’s captain at that time was an officer well known to anyone familiar with the history of the Naval War College – Stephen B. Luce. While in command of Hartford, Luce argued for reform within the Navy and championed the establishment of an advanced school for officers. His ideas eventually bore fruit with the founding of the College in 1884. Hartford went on to serve as a training ship for apprentice seamen, another program begun as a result of Luce’s efforts.

Captain Stephen B. Luce (seated on the right) aboard USS Hartford
Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

This beautifully detailed model of Hartford arrived last month courtesy of Mrs. Jane Mayntz. Her father, Mr. Keith Ward Reynolds, built the model over two decades beginning in the 1930s. Financial hardship brought about by the Great Depression forced him to improvise with some of the building materials. One example is the copper plating on the hull which was made from a toilet bowl float! We are fortunate that Mr. Reynolds persevered for so many years to finish the Hartford and are grateful to Mrs. Mayntz for donating it to the museum.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Matthew Calbraith Perry and the Anniversary of the Treaty of Kanagawa

John Kennedy
Director of Museum Education and Community Outreach
Naval War College Museum

Matthew Calbraith Perry (1794-1858) was eight years younger than his older brother Oliver Hazard Perry. He was born in Newport, Rhode Island, April 10, 1794. He entered naval service in 1809 and, as a midshipman, was with his brother at the Battle of Lake Erie. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1813. Over the next forty-nine years he was involved in several key events in history. He participated in the Second Barbary War under the command of Commodore William Bainbridge, cruised off West Africa and the West Indies in operations to suppress piracy and the slave trade, and claimed the Florida Keys for the United States.

Matthew Calbraith Perry is recognized for his efforts to modernize the Navy. He was keen in his support of naval education, promoting both an apprentice system for new seamen and establishing a worthy curriculum for the United States Naval Academy. Matthew oversaw the construction of the USS Fulton and became its first captain, ushering in the use of steam power and earning the title, “the Father of the Steam Navy”. He was also instrumental in organizing the first corps of naval engineers and establishing the first naval gunnery school.

During the 1840s, he was promoted to commodore and placed in a post-captain billet as commandant of the New York Navy Yard. Later in the decade, he was in command of the African Squadron enforcing the Webster-Ashburton Treaty. 1845 and the Mexican-American War found him actively involved as second-in-command to Commodore David Connor. Later, as Connor’s replacement, he supported Winfield Scott during the siege of Veracruz and, as Scott moved inland, Perry attacked various ports, capturing Tuxpan and Tabasco, actually leading the landing force ashore during the latter attack. 

Trade with Japan was restricted to only Dutch and Chinese vessels, under the policy of sakoku. Between 1800 and 1849 several attempts had been made by the United States to open trade but negotiations were not successful as requests often fell on deaf ears. Following the 1849 visit by Captain James Glynn, the recommendation was made that future negotiations to open Japan be supported by a strong naval presence, one that would project power and force a resolution to the impasse. 

Matthew Calbraith Perry was carefully chosen to lead the expedition to Japan. Assigned to command the East India Squadron in December of 1851, he spent the next several years preparing for the assignment, reading all available material regarding Japan and interviewing people familiar with the country and its customs. Perry was not about to make the same mistakes committed by previous naval missions. Well aware of the diplomatic and ceremonial responsibilities that would fall to him, care was given to selection of food, wine and spirits as well as to the providing of appropriate entertainment. A bandmaster, a French chef, botanists, and artists were enlisted to provide support to Perry as he set out to impress the Japanese with the full majesty and power of the United States Government.

Commodore Perry arrived at Uraga Harbor in July 1853. Told that he would have to leave and sail to Nagasaki, the only Japanese port open to foreigners, he refused and ordered a limited bombardment to demonstrate US naval power and resolve. Forced to allow Perry ashore, delegates of the Japanese emperor were presented a letter by Perry on July 14, 1853, in what is present day Yokosuka. Perry then departed and promised to return for the reply.

In February 1854, Perry returned with great pomp and even more ships. He found a treaty waiting for signature that acquiesced to nearly all of the demands by the US Government. Known as the Treaty of Kanagawa, it was signed by Perry on March 31, 1854. The Perry expedition, an achievement that reflected his strategic planning and implementation, culminated in a treaty of amity and trade with Japan. It has been described as one of the major American diplomatic successes of the 19th century. When he returned to the United States, Commodore Perry was awarded $20,000 by Congress for his service and a further $360,000 was appropriated to enable him to write his account of the mission to Japan. The three volume set entitled Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, performed in the years 1852, 1853, and 1854, under the command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy, by order of the Government of the United States was authored by Francis L. Hawks, D.D. L.L.D, and was compiled from the original notes and journals of Commodore Perry and his officers. Perry served as the editor and approved the final version of the work.

Matthew Perry Monument located in Touro Park in Newport, RI.  Designed by John Quincy Adams Ward in 1869, it sits on a pedestal designed by Richard Morris Hunt

Matthew Calbraith Perry died March 4, 1858. Originally buried in New York City, his remains now reside near his father, Christopher, and his brother, Oliver Hazard Perry, at Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island. An exhibit at the Naval War College Museum focuses on the Perry Family's contributions to American naval history.

Monument over the grave of Matthew Perry, Island Cemetery, Newport, RI.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On This Day in History: Yeomanettes Enlist in the Navy

I've been in frigid Greenland and in sunny Tennessee,
I've been in noisy London and in wicked, gay Paree,
I've seen the Latin Quarter, with its models, wines, and tights,
I've hobnobbed oft with Broadway stars who outshone Broadway lights;
But North or South or East or West, the girls that I have met
Could never hold a candle to a Newport yeomanette.
Newport Recruit, 1918

When Loretta Walsh joined the Naval Reserve on March 17, 1917 – becoming the first enlisted woman to serve in the U.S. Navy – she was continuing a long tradition of women serving in the U.S. military. Women fought alongside their male counterparts in the American Revolution, the Mexican War, and the Civil War, though not in an official capacity and often disguised in order to conceal their gender. The Navy first accepted women for service in 1908 when it established the Nurse Corps, but those who joined received neither rank nor rating and were considered little different than civilian employees of the Navy.

Nina Ferris served as a yeomanette at Newport from 1917-1918

By 1916, World War I had been underway for two years and military planners considered that U.S. involvement was becoming more likely. As the Navy was the country’s first line of defense in a European war, Congress passed the Naval Act of 1916 in order to provide for its expansion. The act authorized the construction of ten battleships, six Lexington-class battlecruisers, ten Omaha-class scout cruisers, fifty Wickes-class destroyers, and numerous other smaller warships to be built over a period of just three years. Since the addition of so many ships would severely stretch the Navy’s manpower reserves, Congress also passed the Naval Reserve Act which allowed the enlistment of "all persons who may be capable of performing special useful service for coastal defense." The idea was to fill the ranks with reservists who could perform most land-based jobs, thus freeing up sailors to serve on ships. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels realized that the gender-neutral language in the law meant that women could be recruited too. Soon thereafter, the Bureau of Navigation instructed district commanders to enlist women for service as radio operators, stenographers, nurses, messengers, chauffeurs, and other non-combat jobs. The majority of women who signed up became yeomen (a rating that specializes in administrative and clerical duties) and were designated as yeomen (F).

Yeomen and yeomen (F) of the Second Naval District, Newport, 1918

Several hundred yeomen (F) served in Newport at the Supply Office, Second Naval District. Many more completed their initial training at the Yeoman School before moving on to wartime assignments. One of the immediate problems the Navy faced was finding living quarters for women. Naval facilities at that time did not have housing for single women, and many yeomen (F) were forced to stay with nearby family or friends. Some roomed at local YWCAs or shared apartments. In Newport, the Navy subsidized room and board for the women and allowed them to find offsite housing on their own.

Yeomen (F) in front of Founder’s Hall, Newport, during World War I

Yeomen (F) enlisted for the standard four years. The Navy stopped enrolling women just days before the armistice was signed in November 1918, at which time a total of 11,275 yeomen (F) were in service. Secretary Daniels advised commanders that many civilian positions on shore would be opening up in the peacetime Navy. He instructed them to offer these positions to reservists first before making any new hires. Many yeomen (F) applied for and received appointments to these positions. Regardless of their enlistment date, all yeomen (F) were officially discharged on October 24, 1920, though a few inadvertently remained on the books until March 1921. These pioneering women helped pave the way for an even greater expansion of women’s roles during World War II.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Monday, February 23, 2015

On This Day in History: Flag Raising on Iwo Jima

Gift of Jamestown Historical Society

Today marks seventy years since Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal photographed five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising a U.S. flag atop Mt. Suribachi. Rosenthal did not realize at the time that he had just captured one of the iconic images of the twentieth century, but its powerful symbolism and broad appeal soon became apparent. In May 1945, the Treasury Department began its seventh and final war loan drive. Americans had already contributed nearly $110 billion in previous loan drives over three and a half years of war. With Germany surrendering just a week before the seventh loan kicked off, officials worried that many Americans would not feel the need to buy more government bonds. As with previous drives, the government enlisted the aid of artists to create advertisements that would inspire ordinary citizens and encourage them to give generously.

Terrain model of Iwo Jima used to plan for the invasion.
Mt. Suribachi is visible in the lower left corner.
Gift of Mrs. Charlotte Kassal

C.C. Beall (1892-1967) was a commercial illustrator who also drew comics and book covers. Born in Saratoga, Wyoming, Beall studied at the Pratt Institute and Art Students League in New York. He primarily worked in watercolor and belonged to the American Water Color Society as well as the Society of Illustrators. Beall used Rosenthal’s photograph as the basis for his poster which he completed for the seventh loan drive. He chose the words, “Now – all together,” to match the sense of collective patriotism invoked by the famous image.

In spite of fears, the seventh loan drive raised $26 billion, more than any drive before it. The government even ran one more drive in October 1945 after the war was officially over. This final campaign succeeded in raising $21 billion, bringing the total amount of money raised to $156.4 billion.

Rob Doane
Naval War College Museum Curator

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Meet our interns

For the past several years, the Naval War College Museum has been pleased to offer internships for students from Salve Regina University’s history program. We would like to extend a warm welcome to our 2015 interns, Courtney Kelly and James Rehill. Courtney is a senior from Townsend, Massachusetts, and is concentrating on American military history. James is also a senior and comes from Foxboro, Massachusetts. He is majoring in European history and minoring in administration of justice. Courtney and James are working in our curatorial department and are already busy cataloging our collection, performing digital photography, and fielding research inquiries. They also helped us finish installing our current exhibit, The Naval Art of Thomas Hart Benton. We hope they will enjoy learning about the work that goes on behind the scenes at museums and are excited to have them on board!

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Friday, January 30, 2015

On This Day in History: Attack on New Providence

On this day in 1778, the Continental Navy sloop Providence (12 guns) sailed from the Bahamas after staging a successful attack on the island of New Providence. Formerly known as Katy while part of the Rhode Island state navy, the ship entered Continental service in December 1776. Captain John P. Rathbun, a native Rhode Islander, approached the capital of Nassau late on the night of the 27th with Providence disguised as a trading sloop. Under cover of darkness, twenty-six Marines commanded by Captain John Trevett landed outside Fort Nassau, scaled its walls, and quickly overpowered the two guards. The next morning they received the surrender of neighboring Fort Montague as well. With the harbor now safe to enter, Captain Rathbun brought Providence close in to Fort Nassau and loaded all the captured gunpowder and small arms he could carry. The British sloop Grayton appeared on the horizon around noon and began approaching cautiously, but sympathetic townspeople signaled her to be wary of the fort and its new occupants. She withdrew, encouraged by a few shots from the fort’s guns. Rathbun departed on the morning of the 30th with three captured ships and a group of about twenty American seamen who had been prisoners of the British.

Purchased by the Naval War College Foundation for the NWC Museum

The Naval War College Museum is home to this beautiful dockyard-style model of the Providence. Built by craftsmen at the Navy’s David Taylor Model Basin in Maryland, the model measures approximately four feet from gaff boom to bowsprit. It features an exposed hull beneath the waterline that allows the viewer to observe details of the ship’s frame.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum